Security or Convenience? Get Both with these 4 Steps

               In December of 2013, a student bent on revenge entered Arapahoe High School in Colorado to target the debate team coach. The coach left the school, but the student killed Claire Davis before taking his own life.

               Sadly, the killer used a side door that was supposed to be locked, but was routinely left propped open for convenience.

Propped open doors can be used by all criminals, not just shooters
               Being a student, he would have likely found a way in. However, every obstacle creates an opportunity to disrupt an attack. Forcing the student to use a main entrance could have meant that he would have been seen, as he was carrying a shotgun and machete along with Molotov cocktails: items that were not easily concealed. If an access control system was in place, an alarm may have been instantly triggered if there was forced entry or a door propped open.

               It is concerning that it was apparently a well-known fact that the door in question (and probably others) was routinely allowed to be propped open for sake of the convenience.

               The question or trade-off between security and convenience is not new. Every security professional has faced this dilemma in some form or another. If security measures are not supported, people will find ways to work around the measures.

               To make sure that your security is convenient, follow the guidelines below.

1.      Communicate the reason behind the security measures. Repeat as necessary. It is nearly impossible to over-communicate a message. Recently, I heard a speaker say that a message has to be repeated seven times before it will be remembered. Make sure you can clearly explain changes, the reason for the changes, and, of course, what is in it for the audience (such as to protect employees and keep them safe).

2.     Plan security measures to match business needs. NOTE: business needs and convenience are not the same thing. If business goals are supported and the inconvenience does not impact productivity, then move forward with executive support.

3.     Have a method that identifies any gaps or ways that a security measure is being bypassed. For example, if there are repeated alarms at a given door, review the situation to see if there is a business need to make a change. If not, enforce the policy!

4.     Convenience may sometimes include visitors or customers. An organization has to be able to balance security with a customer-friendly environment. If you have restricted or limited access for visitors or customers, be sure to have the right signage and way finding in place so people will be directed to the right location. A school may lock all doors except for the front. However, there should be clear signage directing visitors to the front entrance if someone happens to park in the wrong area or walks up from a different direction. Make it easy for visitors to follow the security protocols.

               Find the right balance between security and convenience. The two may be at odds on occasion, but with the right approach, you can build support and create a safer environment.              


Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense. He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management. Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces. To learn more email Eric at businesskarate dot com.



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